New Zealand’s coronavirus cluster has grown to 21, with a strong link discovered to a case at the border, as the country began on the second day of a national lockdown.
On Thursday, New Zealand reported another 11 cases of the Delta variant in the community, all in Auckland.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also announced that children between the ages of 12 and 15 would now also be eligible for the vaccine, starting Sept. 1.
“My message to parents who, of course, must consent to children, is that I would not have been part of a process and would approve this, unless I believed it was safe, because around that table, we are also parents, all affected by these decisions, that’s why we take them very seriously, ”he said.
The first case, a 58-year-old man from Auckland, emerged on Tuesday, prompting the government to put the entire country into a level 4 lockdown, the highest level of restrictions.
Ardern said genome sequencing has linked the group to a returnee from Australia. A New Zealander returned from Sydney on a red zone managed flight and tested positive for the Delta variant on 7 August before being quarantined the next day. After feeling unwell, they were transferred to Middlemore Hospital on August 16.
“This is a significant advance and it means that we can now be fairly certain how and when the virus entered the country, and that based on the timelines, there is a minimum, possibly only one, or maybe two, missing links between this returnee and the cases. in our current outbreak, ”Ardern said.
The period in which the cases were in the community is relatively short, he said, adding that the virus was unlikely to spread in the hospital because the case was transferred there just one day before the first local positive case was discovered. .
Ardern thanked the 58-year-old for getting tested when he did. “If it weren’t for the fact that you took the test when you did, this could be a much, much more difficult situation. Having said that, I know that we are all prepared for cases to get worse before they get better. There is always a pattern with these shoots.
The prime minister cautioned that the country should remain open to other possibilities, but that the new information gives officials the confidence to focus on how the virus was transmitted, with a particular focus on isolation and quarantine facilities.
“Today we believe that we have discovered the piece of the puzzle that we were looking for, and that means that our ability to surround the virus, block it and eradicate it in general has improved enormously.”
The Health Ministry has updated its list of locations, including a nightclub attended by 900 people, a church that has a city-wide congregation, shopping malls, a university and an Auckland city hospital.
Ardern warned that there would be more cases, given the activity of those infected.
Chief Health Officer Dr. Ashley Bloomfield said it was encouraging that the models now showed that the likely number of people who contracted the virus before the shutdown was around 50, and not 100 as previously thought.
Under the level 4 lockdown, all New Zealanders except essential workers are asked to stay home and shelter in place, leaving the home only for essentials such as food, medical supplies, medical care, and socially distancing outdoor exercise. They must remain within a “bubble” of immediate household members and dependents. The initial announcement of that lockdown was for three days across the country and four to seven days for Auckland and Coromandel. It can spread, depending on whether health officials can identify a source of the virus at the border or how many additional cases are detected.
Health officials will advise the government on new lockdown measures on Friday.
“Our goal, of course, is to have a lockdown as short as possible. But it’s so important in this situation that you go into lockdown arrangements quickly and don’t lift them too early, ”said Bloomfield.
Authorities have also advised New Zealanders to scan QR codes into a contact tracing app. Anyone with symptoms is advised to isolate themselves and contact medical authorities for testing. The government has published a list of “locations of interest” online; Anyone who has attended those locations during established hours is encouraged to call Healthline on 0800 611 116.